Sustainability-in-Tech : Cargo Ship Sails Help Reduce Pollution

The recently launched Pyxis Ocean cargo ship uses giant foldaway ‘WindWings’ to help supplement engine power and could cut lifetime carbon emissions by 30 per cent.

The Cargo Ship 

A Mitsubishi Corporation cargo ship is currently demonstrating the WindWings, developed by BAR Technologies and Yara Marine Technologies, during its six week-long maiden voyage from China to Brazil. The ship, chartered by Cargill Ocean Transportation, left from Singapore on 25 August carrying 81,000 tonnes of cargo.

The WindWings 

The extraordinary features of the Pyxis Ocean cargo ship are its two rigid, foldaway 37.5-metre-tall steel and fibreglass ‘sails’ (WindWings) which automatically pivot to catch the wind. The WindWings, each made up of a centrally pivoted 10-metre-wide section with two five-metre-wide wings on either side can be folded down onto the cargo ship’s deck for arrival at ports and for passing through bridges or canals.

BAR Technologies estimates that the wind power harnessed by the WindWings, which can be retrofitted to many cargo ships (but not container ships), could deliver an average fuel saving of up to 30 per cent (on new build ships) and could save as much 1.5 tonnes of fuel per day on an average global route. Adding four wings on cargo could, therefore, save a massive 6 tonnes of fuel per day, stopping 20 tonnes of CO2 being produced.  BAR Technologies says the WindWings make the savings by combining “wind propulsion with route optimisation” and are initially aimed at being fitted to “bulk carriers and tankers.” 


With more than 90 per cent of world trade being carried across oceans by 90,000 fossil-fuel powered marine vessels, the global freight shipping industry is a major producer of CO2 emissions, which contribute to climate change (and acidification). For example, it’s been estimated that the global shipping industry is responsible for more than 3 per cent of global CO2 emissions and, if it were a country, it would be the sixth largest producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

For these reasons, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) set the goal for the shipping industry ultimately arriving at a 50 per cent reduction in GHG emissions from 2008 levels (CO2, sulphur oxide and other gasses) by 2050.

Adding WindWings to cargo ships could, therefore, be one relatively fast solution, in the absence of zero-carbon fuel for ships or a clear decarbonisation strategy, to at least begin reducing GHG emissions.


John Cooper, Chief Executive Officer, BAR Technologies said of the WindWings: “If international shipping is to achieve its ambition of reducing CO2 emissions, then innovation must come to the fore. Wind is a near marginal cost-free fuel and the opportunity for reducing emissions, alongside significant efficiency gains in vessel operating costs, is substantial.” 

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation?

When the alarm bells really started ringing back in 2008 about how the global shipping industry was producing more CO2 than most countries, twice as much as the air transport industry, and more than 3 per cent of global emissions, the ambitious but necessary 50 per cent cut by 2050 target was set. However, with the world still reliant on cargo ships for 90 per cent of international trade, no zero-emissions fuel on the horizon, a perceived relative inactivity among freight operators in trying to meet the target, and no clear strategy, the WindWings idea looks like a realistic option to get started.

Although there’s ‘no one fits all’ (plus it may not work for container ships), they have been designed to be workable on the most common vessels sizes (using either 3 or 4 WindWings). The fact that they’re fully automated (touch of a button), can be folded away, have a lower power consumption and yet have the capacity to make major fuel and CO2 emission savings mean that, as long as they are affordable and reliable, they could provide a practical, and sustainable way forward for the freight shipping industry until other options are available. There’s also a kind of irony to the idea that the leading technology of today for greener shipping takes ships back full circle to the days of sails, with these just being more high-tech versions – of an old solution to a newer problem.

Sustainability-in-Tech : ‘Zero-Bills’ New-Build Properties

A new partnership between Octopus energy and sustainable housebuilder Verto aims to develop new homes across two south-west sites that will have no energy bills because all their energy and heating will come from with solar, battery and heat pumps.

Ground-Breaking ‘Zero Bills’ Proposition

Octopus says the 70 new homes built across two sites in Cornwall and Exeter are part of its “ground-breaking ‘Zero Bills’ proposition to all housing developers, enabling more new homeowners to make energy bills a thing of the past”.


The ‘Zero Bills’ homes will be made achievable by having them fully kitted out with green energy technology including solar panels, home batteries and heat pumps. At the back end, Octopus’ proprietary technology platform, Kraken, will connect to the clean energy devices and optimise their energy usage to deliver a zero bill.

Octopus says this system will mean the new homes will have no energy bills for at least five years, guaranteed.

600 Other Homes Now Accredited & 1200 Submitted For Assessment 

A previous successful ‘Zero Bills’ pilot with ilke Homes in Essex has meant that Octopus Energy has accredited almost 600 homes (affordable, shared-ownership, private, and rented) through contracts with other developers. Also, 80 more developers have started their accreditation process with Octopus and more than 1200 homes have been submitted for assessment.

Make Energy Bills And Home Emissions A Thing Of The Past 

Michael Cottrell, Zero Bills Homes Director at Octopus Energy, said of the new developments: “We’re on a mission to make ‘Zero Bills’ the new standard for homes. By partnering with developers like Verto, we’re scaling this efficient green technology to homes everywhere while driving down costs for consumers.”  Mr Cottrell also said that, “Together with forward-thinking developers, we can make energy bills and home emissions a thing of the past.” 

UK’s First Zero Bills Development 

Tom Carr, Co-Founder at Verto said of the ‘Zero Bills’ partnership: “We’re thrilled to be partnering with Octopus to launch the UK’s first fully Zero Bills developments. Verto has been delivering its Zero Carbon Smart Home™ product for over a decade: combined with Zero Bills, it represents a sea-change in sustainable housing. But this is just the beginning – we have several other exciting projects in the pipeline with Octopus, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this movement.” 

Heat Pumps Questions 

Although the Octopus / Verto ‘Zero Bills’ proposition sounds very promising, many questions have been raised about heat pumps in the media recently, particularly for current homeowners thinking of replacing their gas boiler with one. Criticisms have included the prohibitive cost of air and ground source heat pumps, a suggestion that they may be slower at heating a home than a conventional boiler or electric heater, and that some homes and flats may not be compatible with them, i.e. they might not work when fitted. Other criticisms are that they may not cut bills by much and may not be particularly effective in well-insulated homes.

That said, the Octopus Verto ‘Zero Bills’ partnership homes are new builds with the entire system (solar panels, home batteries and heat pumps) already set up, integrated and designed-in using both the expertise of the energy company (Octopus) and the sustainable housebuilder (Vetro) so this should be an effective system.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

Britain’s homes currently account for 13 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions and the government wants to phase out one of the main culprits, gas boilers, and have them replaced with heat pumps.

With high energy prices and a cost-of-living crisis, the solar industry has grown in the UK with more households fitting them to get the cash savings and green benefits. With this as the backdrop, the ability to build new homes with all the low carbon technology already fitted must help (in this case through a partnership) and the prospect of zero bills homes (a first) for at least five years will no doubt be appealing in itself to new build homebuyers, not to mention the feel-good green benefits. At least with the kit already fitted as part of tailored and tested system it should work well, thereby avoiding some of the pitfalls that trying to retrofit low carbon tech like heat pumps to older homes could uncover.

It’s promising (from a green perspective) that this ‘Zero Bills’ scheme is under way and that many other developers have started their accreditation process, and these schemes may also provide profitable opportunities to the developers and to suppliers of low-carbon tech for homes, thereby helping green industries in the UK to flourish. If all new developments were built with the low-carbon, sustainable tech already installed, it could certainly help cut carbon emissions and bode well for the future but the big challenge for the government is, of course, how to get existing housing into shape in terms of cutting emissions, e.g., replacing boilers with (quite expensive) heat pumps, solar panels, insulation and more.